Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Brown, Joseph

Abstract

ABSTRACT This study examined global media discourses regarding the coverage of an anti-poverty campaign for Africa by celebrities in Europe by comparing media coverage of this event in the UK, US, and African press. The Make Poverty History campaign was organized in 2005 to pressure G8 leaders meeting in Glen eagles Scotland to cancel African aid, increase aid, and make trading conditions fairer. Former rock star, and humanitarian Sir Bob Geldof, rocker Bono, and filmmaker Richard Curtis, were the central figures in organizing this campaign on the global justice movement side of things. On the political arena, former British premier, Tony Blair, also had an agenda that put Africa and climate change at the top of the G8 agenda in 2005. Given Africa's historical negative coverage in the media, this study sought to investigate how a celebrity campaign which sought to change the perception of Africa as a pitiable place in need of charity, to one of a wronged continent in need of justice, would alter, if at all, the traditional coverage of Africa. The study sought to address three questions in particular: what were global media discourses regarding the Make Poverty History campaign; how were the major players in this campaign portrayed by the press in the United Kingdom, the center of the campaign, the United States, the key player in the G8, and in Africa, the continent in which all this attention was being directed to; and lastly to establish to what degree differences existed between media coverage of this campaign, and colonial/postcolonial discourses on the continent. The findings from the Western press showed both continuities and discontinuities of colonial rhetorical modes. These discursive continuities are classification, affirmation, debasement, idealization, and negation. These discourses are not static but have variations and shifts but some clear outlines of a continuation of colonial discourses were apparent. Classification refers to arranging nations according to a single standard of political and economic development. The Western press constantly held up industrialized countries as the ideal for Africa to follow. Affirmation has to do with confirming the moral superiority of the rich nations' publics. The Western media esteem the ability of the Western public, for example, to serve as the conscience of big business to restrain them from exploiting Third World countries. The leaders of the campaign also painted outstanding leaders on a mission to save the world, while the beneficiaries of the campaign were not involved. Debasement has to do depicting the "Other" in a degrading manner. This recurred in the coverage except the trope of debasement and idealization operated together with African leaders acting as the "villains" and the ordinary people as "noble" and "unspoilt" continuing the ambivalence of colonial discourse. Negation had to do with the media being ahistorical and denying historical links between Africa's deprivation in the past and its present reality. Even the campaign itself was in denial of Africa's past by adopting its slogan as Make Poverty History. Nonetheless, accommodation is a new discourse that came out of the reading and signified diverse perspectives within Western media coverage. Some perspectives from the activist public considered left-wing have entered the mainstream, for example, acknowledgment that subsidies given to farmers in wealthy countries make African countries less competitive contributing to poverty levels. African media texts had different perspectives. These can be classified as: self-affirmation (quest for global inclusion and /raising Africa's global profile); sovereignty (quest for economic independence); and self-reliance. African publications sought to reaffirm the place of Africa within the community of nations. They also sought resist what they considered undue interference by outsiders in the inside affairs of the continent. But there was some ambivalence because they still expressed concern over being forgotten by the rest of the world. Lastly, African media texts called for Africans to fashion their own solutions to the problems they encounter instead of waiting for outside help. These discursive strategies could be seen as defensive and in direct response to Africa's portrayal in the international media. Nevertheless, the African media provided perspective and continually drew the link between Africa's current problems and its historical development and place in global relations. While the Western press focused on Africa's present dilemma, the African press provided an alternative reading of the situation by illustrating global connections in Africa's plight.

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